The Real Story Behind MMM: All You Need to Know

Everywhere you go in Nigeria you hear MMM, from people wooing you to join their downline to people warning you not to join. Some call it Money Making Machine, however MMM was established in 1989 by Sergei Mavrodi, his brother Vyacheslav Mavrodi, and Olga Melnikova. The name of the company was taken from the first letters of the three founders’ surnames.

This article is not to encourage you to start or stop MMM, it to help you understand the history and details behind the scheme and help you take your decision.

What is MMM?

According to wikipedia

МММ was a Russian company that perpetrated one of the world’s largest Ponzi schemes of all time, in the 1990s. By different estimates from 5 to 40 million people lost up to $10 billion. The exact figures are not known even to the founders.

According to MMM global website

MMM is not a bank, MMM does not collect your money, MMM is not an online business, HYIP, investment or MLM program. MMM is a community where people help each other. MMM gives you a technical platform which helps millions of participants worldwide to connect those who NEED help to those who are ready to PROVIDE help, for FREE. All transferred funds to another participant are your help given by your own good will to another one, absolutely gratis.

History of MMM

At the onset of MMM company, it imported computers and office equipment. In January 1992, tax police accused MMM of tax evasion, leading to the collapse of MMM-bank, and causing the company to have difficulty obtaining financing to support its operations. Faced with difficulties in funding its foreign trade, the company switched to the financial sector. It offered American stocks to Russian investors.

MMM created its successful Ponzi scheme in 1994. The company started attracting money from private investors, promising annual returns of up to one thousand percent. MMM grew rapidly. In February 1994, the company reported dividends of 1,000%, and started an aggressive TV ad campaign. Since the shares were not quoted on any stock exchange and the company itself determined the share price, it maintained a steady price growth of thousands of percent annually, leading the public to believe its shares were a safe and profitable investment.

At its peak the company was taking in more than 100 billion rubles (about 50 million USD) each day from the sale of its shares to the public. Thus, the cashflow turnover at the MMM central office in Moscow was so high that it could not be estimated. The management started to count money in roomfuls (1 roomful of money, 2 roomfuls of money, etc.)

On July 22, 1994, the police closed the offices of MMM for tax evasion. At that point, Invest-Consulting, one of the company’s subsidiaries, owed more than 50 billion rubles in taxes (USD 26 million), and MMM itself owed between 100 billion and 3 trillion rubles to the investors (from USD 50 million to USD 1.5 billion). In the aftermath at least 50 investors, having lost all of their money, committed suicide.

Sergei Mavrodi left Russia and moved to the United States and with the help of a distant relative he started Stock Generation Ltd., another pyramid scheme based around trading non-existent companies’ stocks in a form of the “stock exchange game” on the company’s site, stockgeneration.com. Despite a bold-letter warning on the main page that the site was not a real stock exchange, between 20,000 and 275,000 people, according to various estimates, fell for the promised 200% returns and lost their money. According to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, losses of victims were at least USD 5.5 million

In January 2011, Mavrodi launched another pyramid scheme called MMM-2011, asking investors to buy so-called Mavro currency units. He frankly described it as a pyramid, adding “It is a naked scheme, nothing more … People interact with each other and give each other money. For no reason!” Mavrodi said that his goal with MMM-2011 is to destroy the current financial system, which he considers unfair, which would allow something new to take its place. MMM-2011 was able to function openly as Ponzi schemes and financial pyramids are not illegal under Russian law. In May 2012 he froze the operation and announced that there would be no more payouts.

In 2011 he launched a similar scheme in India, called MMM India, again stating clearly that the vehicle is a pyramid. He has also launched MMM in China. He was reported to be trying to expand his operations into Western Europe, Canada, and Latin America.

In 2015 MMM began operating in South Africa with the same business model as MMM-2011, claiming a “30% per month” return through a “social financial network”. The group was identified as a possible pyramid scheme by the National Consumer Commission and accounts of clients were later frozen by Capitec Bank. In response to mounting criticism and official investigations by state authorities in 2016 supporters of the South African MMM scheme staged a protest march in Johannesburg.

In 2016, MMM launched a website targeting the Nigerian audience.

In January 2016 the Chinese government banned MMM on the grounds that it is a pyramid scheme, (Ponzi scheme), and it is not registered in the country (and as a fraudulent scheme cannot be registered)

What is Ponzi Scheme?

Ponzi scheme is a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors. It’s a fraudulent business where people are paid quick and high returns using other people’s money. People who enter first or who started the business usually gains while later investors lose.

Should I Join MMM or Not?

This article is not to persuade or dissuade you, however we will highlight some point that will allow you make your decision.

A quick check on MMM website showed the following disclaimer

WARNING!
There are no guarantees and promises! Neither explicit nor implicit.
There are neither investments nor business! Participants help each other, sending each other money directly and without intermediaries. That’s all! There’s nothing more.

There are no securities transactions, no relationship with the professional participants of the securities market; you do not acquire any securities. (Do you need them? :-))

There are no rules. In principle! The only rule is no rules. At all! Even if you follow all of the instructions, you still may “lose”. “Win” might not be paid. Without any reasons or explanations.

And in general, you can lose all your money. Always remember about this and participate only with spare money. Or do not participate at all! Amen. :-))

Interpreting the above statement, they are simply telling you that you will likely lose your money, hence you should use a spare money so that when you lose you won’t feel too bad.

One thing is sure from the history of MMM, they can stop anytime without warning or reason.

The return is lucrative (30%) per month, for doing nothing! Very tempting!

According to MMM site

There is no сentral account, where all the System money flows to (and where it can be easily stolen from :-)). All the money is only on the banking accounts of the participants themselves! On a lot of thousand and million private accounts. Participants transfer to each other directly, without intermediaries! (What are they for? :-)) In fact, MMM only regulates the process — nothing more.
So the System completely belongs to people. No kidding! It is a real mutual aid fund where ordinary people help each other.

They also promise 50% bonus if you provide help through bitcoin. Bitcoin Bonus is not frozen. It is available for withdrawal as soon as the recipient confirms the receipt of funds.

Now this is tricky, Bitcoin is a pseudonymous currency, meaning that funds are not tied to real-world entities but rather bitcoin addresses. Owners of bitcoin addresses are not explicitly identified. The European Banking Authority and other sources have warned that bitcoin users are not protected by refund rights or chargebacks. Dubious and criminal transactions are usually perpetrated through bitcoin.

My assumption, the creators of MMM make their money from people who provide help through bitcoins, as you can’t actually verify who the real receiver is. They are also making it more lucrative to attract more people.

Common factors with most Ponzi schemes
– Lucrative (Very High) Yield
– No visible business operations
– Visible warning signs etc

One question most people fail to ask is this, since there is no business where the MMM pledges (helps) is being used for, WHO ACCOUNTS FOR ALL THE BONUSES AND YIELDS? Where is the 30% yields, 50% bonuses, referral bonuses given to everyone who joins coming from?

Another question begging for answer is this: What is in it for the founders? How do they make money to cover for their expenses in running the scheme, since the claim they don’t touch any of the money. From the records available, they have not done anything charity, even at that charity organizations need funds.

On the other hand, the recession is biting hard, most people are resorting to the easy way out, quick money for doing nothing. It’s very tempting especially in the current economy and the founders know this.

The company have a track record of fraud, are they going to be different this time?

Ponder it yourself and make your choice

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